She took a long, slow drag off one of her favorite cigarettes as he caressed her hand, both of them lost forever in the moment now fading into their past. They’d waited for this day as if it had been 100 years. Made the arrangements. Devised excuses for skipping out on work. They’d picked a location far from their hometown, where nobody would recognize them in the band of darkness that some would say straddles a thin line, but to them it would be plenty wide to satisfy their curiosity. She had wondered whether she’d feel bliss—or regret—after the rendezvous. And now she knew. It was over. She was already thinking about the next one. It was, as they say, nothing short of spectacular.
She slid her finger across her phone, tapped into the search engine, and waited. She cupped her hand over the screen and squinted. April 8, 2024. “What! Seven more years!?”
I’m not sure where your mind went, but that rendezvous refers to the solar eclipse a couple weeks ago. Apparently, it was that good.
All fabrications aside, the story is true. Well, mostly. Okay, barely.
Two weeks ago today while driving home after the 2017 solar eclipse, I saw a man and woman slouched in lawn chairs along the side of the road. She sat with one leg hiked over the arm rest and blew cigarette smoke casually into the breeze. The man stared straight ahead, euphoric-like. He seemed oblivious to the long line of cars trickling past in front of him, like he was transfixed on some thought dangling over distant corn fields.
Don’t get me wrong. The eclipse was good. But that good? Maybe he’d just forgot to wear his eclipse glasses and was suffering from temporary blindness. Seen the light. You know.
But I understood—maybe not to their level of transcendence, but I did see for the first time a total solar eclipse, and it truly was spectacular. And in 7 more years on April 8, 2024, we’ll get to see another one.
With devastating current events like the flooding in Texas, the eclipse itself is forgotten news (and rightly so with more important things like Houston). But the morning after the eclipse on my commute to work, and over the last couple weeks, my thoughts have driven far beyond the simple science and awe of the eclipse to discover a deeper, more personal meaning behind it.
By basic definition, we all know a solar eclipse is nothing more than the moon passing directly between the earth and the sun. The moon casts its shadow over a portion of the earth, and if you’re in its path, it gets dark for a few minutes. So at its core, we can all agree that it’s just a big shadow. Whoop-dee-doo, right? Solar eclipses don’t happen every day of course, but they certainly are not rare, relatively speaking. They occur around the globe every year, often multiple times at varying degrees. Yes, they’re amazing to see firsthand, especially without eclipse glasses while the sun is completely covered by the moon. But are they really that big of a deal? A phenomenon? Apparently that man and woman on the side of the road thought so. And so do I.
For people of faith, in particular Christ followers, our view of the natural world is a big deal. And if it’s not, it should be (for Christians, anyway), because we believe the evidence of God’s character and qualities exist in creation—if we’d stop to examine the artistry (and yes, the science) of it all. (Check out Romans 1:19-20). And so, on that premise of belief, a total solar eclipse holds a wonderful parallel to something we as God’s precious creation often struggle with—transitions.
It just so happens that transition is the word theme for my family this year. (My wife and I spend time each January praying over the upcoming year. We often discover, and tune our hearts toward, a word or theme for the new year.) The day after the eclipse, it dawned on me that the eclipse had coincided with a huge transition in our life. We’d just returned home from moving our middle child off to college—our second of three to leave home. This change has brought a major shift in the dynamic (and noise level!) around our home.
Like eclipses, transitions bring anticipation, and sometimes anxiety. There are moments of uncertainty tucked in there, when light turns to shadow, and all seems eerie. Surreal. Out of place. Behaviors change—of people, of surroundings, of ourselves. Often too many things are in flux at once. We can’t process it all.
The total eclipse I saw lasted all of 2 minutes and 39 seconds. That’s barely enough time for this amazing event’s special effects to register in the brain. By the time you start taking it all in, it’s over. We can’t control that.
We can control, however, our response to the transition, especially afterward. Did it grow us? Give us a new way of looking at others? At ourselves? At life in general?
I’ve been amazed at how much science went into this eclipse, and the variety of perspectives coming out of it. Airplanes flew thousands of feet to gather data and offer unique views during the event. And on the ground, a young boy captured a video of his chickens, and noted their reactions to the sudden change in sunlight and temperature. He intends to use his data to educate other farmers. I love his enthusiasm.
Loads of phenomena became visible and audible during the eclipse, offering the opportunity to see life in a new way—if you paid attention. Kind of like day to day life, is it not?
Thanks to social and modern media coverage, the climactic change brought on by this latest eclipse was clearly dramatic. Just look at the images. Watch some videos. Notice the responses to the eclipse, be it cicadas abuzz and birds going silent, or people laughing and crying, or counting more “oohs, ahhs, wows, and OMGs” than you’ll ever want to hear again for the rest of your life.
For those of us who took the journey to witness firsthand this epic transition of earth, moon, and sun, we can attest to its moment of dimness. But it was just that—a moment. That’s the nature of transitions. They don’t last forever. That’s bad news for eclipse chasers, but good news when your circumstance feels bleak.
Total eclipses are opportunities to catch a glimpse of the sun’s radiance without man-made blinders.
Life transitions are just the same, moments to catch a glimpse of the Son’s radiance—Jesus—without religious pretense and prejudice. To see Him, and others, through His own raw, unfiltered love for us.
After a total eclipse, the sun, of course, in its full brilliance, returns. And you realize it never left in the first place.
(Keep the men, women, and children caught in the Houston flooding area in prayer, that their recovery and transition out of this tragedy would come and go swiftly, like an eclipse.)